Silver has been falling sharply. Yesterday an ounce was valued at $14.95 at the close of the futures market.
What are bullion coin buyers thinking?
They seem to be viewing coins at lower prices as bargains and are snapping up silver American Eagles.
Yesterday the Mint cried uncle. It said it was out of silver bullion Eagles and would not have any more to sell for two weeks.
Noted in the Mint statement to Authorized Purchasers was the observation that there has been a significant increase in demand.
It was only on June 1 that the Mint had stopped rationing the coins to its Authorized Purchaser buyer network.
June 1 to July 7 was the short period buyers did not have to accept what was allocated to them. They could buy what they thought they could sell.
The result was the June monthly sales total of 4,840,000 silver Eagles was nearly two and half times the May total of 2,023,500.
Demand in early July had pushed sales to 2,609,000 silver Eagle coins in less than a week when the Mint ran out.
The stop-go sales pattern must drive Mint staff crazy.
Was the end of rationing some sort of galvanizing factor in increasing buyer demand?
Could marketing efforts by private firms to client lists have been ramped up as sellers knew, or thought, they could replenish whatever they could sell?
Was the surge in sales simply a reflection of market dynamics as buyers decided that recent lower prices were just too good to miss?
Perhaps the Mint should simply never end its policy of silver Eagle rationing in light of the fact that it does not seem to keep enough buffer stocks or Mint production capacity to meet these unexpected surges in demand.
In the case of silver Eagle buyers, only time will tell whether purchases in the last few weeks will pan out as good investments.
There have been demand surges before. One of the most spectacular, in April 2013, occurred when the price of gold fell $200 an ounce in a few days. Buyers then thought they were getting bargains. However, if they still own those coins, they are sitting on losses.
What will those who have purchased silver Eagles in recent days find if they hold them for a similar length of time?
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
• Are you a U.S. silver coin collector? Check out the 2016 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.